The Goldfinch The Goldfinch discussion


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Can Disliking a Book Mean You are a Better Reader?

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Mickey I just recently managed to read this book, so I'm a little late to the party. There is a wide range of opinion about the merits of this book. Looking over the topics, it seems like there are many people who are focusing on small discrepancies and inconsistencies as if this brings into question the entire foundation of the novel.
I've noticed a trend among readers where being unable to continue with a novel or be immersed in a novel is seen as a mark of being a good reader. Being so sensitive to a timeline error or a geographical error that you simply cannot enjoy the rest of it on its merits seems more a disability than a sign of extraordinary ability. Yet there are many discussions here that seem to suggest that those who cannot get over these mistakes are better readers than those that either don't notice them or get over them quickly.


Love I don't really think that's true. I think that is more dependent on your personality. Life isn't perfect, neither is writing or reading. People who can't get over small discrepancies in a book, probably can't get over them in real life. It's similar to the way that you can rate a book for many different reasons. I might give a book with a clever plot 4 stars that has mediocre writing. I also might give a book with a mediocre plot and exceptional writing 4 stars. Reading is very subjective. I read pretty frequently and the only novel that I've ever not been able to finish was "The Casual Vacancy." That also doesn't mean that's a bad novel or I'm a good/bad reader...not everything appeals to everyone.


Ryhana NO NOT Neceserly






http://goo.gl/JhWxz2


message 4: by Anita (new) - added it

Anita I don't think so. Because I don't like a certain food doesn't mean my taste buds are bad or good. It's just having a different taste. Isn't it usual for people to have different reactions.


Mickey Anita wrote: "I don't think so. Because I don't like a certain food doesn't mean my taste buds are bad or good. It's just having a different taste. Isn't it usual for people to have different reactions."


Yeah, I think that this view is given lip service in some of these threads but it always takes on a more judgmental tone of "It was so terrible, I couldn't stand it! Anyone who thinks this is good literature isn't as good a reader as I am because I find this book horrible."

I mean, there are books and authors who do nothing for me either (everyone has them), but I understand that this is a problem with my equipment, so to speak, not the author's or the book's fault. There is some aspect that I can't access in these books that others can. This shouldn't be a case of me congratulating myself on my ability not to understand and properly feel a story. I should be figuring out what this defect is and wondering if there is a way to correct it.

I guess this comes from being a former English teacher. When a student tells me, "This play is stupid," I don't automatically assume he has somehow transcended Shakespeare and should be put in a higher level class. I don't think adults are much different.


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

Quite frankly, without filtering, I believe we're in a psycho-cultural state where very many people feel disenfranchised on an economic or emotional level and express themselves anonymously in social media to experience a level of personal gratification without repercussion. I'm not saying this in a negative sense, I think it's a phenomenon. The Goldfinch is a current novel; many people seem to express themselves not as readers, but as potential writers who would have done a better job than Ms. Tartt. In the same way, many classics are thrown aside and dismissed, or classed as sexist or racist, when such concepts did not exist at the time the book was written.

You run into people looking for some authority in their own lives, some validation. Social media provides it. Reading a review and then looking at the commentator's "Read" list often shows that they have read nothing to prepare them for the particular book they have just dismissed. There's a sense of entitlement I don't quite grasp.

I simply wouldn't take it too seriously. No one can look at my books, I value my privacy, but I thought The Goldfinch was remarkable, and I am entitled to. I'm not harmful, I have simply been harmed; a friend can look at my books. Lethem is my favorite. I'm not young, and I've made a concerted effort to engage in contemporary literature as opposed to wandering the stacks looking for a new book from my long-dead formerly favorite authors.

Onward, and consider seriously the source, and the purpose, I should mention, of Goodreads and the publishing industry. They want consternation and conflict, they want kerfuffles, they want to make money. And they do.

Interesting post, though.


Greg Mickey wrote: "I just recently managed to read this book, so I'm a little late to the party. There is a wide range of opinion about the merits of this book. Looking over the topics, it seems like there are many p..."
Mickey, people like books for different reasons and rate books for different reasons. I liked "Goldfinch" but struggled when the author moved us from Theo's world to Boris' world, about 4/5ths of the way through. I thought "A Little Life" fantastic, the best I read in 2015 easily, but I almost set it aside half way through. My opinion turned on one single word, "only", and then it all clicked into place, where the author was going, etc. So, to your point, yes, absolutely, a single word can change a reading experience in so many different ways. And that's not a bad thing at all.


message 8: by Mickey (last edited Dec 18, 2015 02:09AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Mickey Greg wrote: "I thought "A Little Life" fantastic, the best I read in 2015 easily, but I almost set it aside half way through. My opinion turned on one single word, "only", and then it all clicked into place, where the author was going, etc. So, to your point, yes, absolutely, a single word can change a reading experience in so many different ways. And that's not a bad thing at all."

I'm confused by this: Are you saying that a single word changed your opinion of a book from the point of being abandoned to being a favorite? Is the converse also true? Does a single word sometimes change a book you are enjoying immensely to one that you dislike?

I can't really imagine how this could be a good thing. Could you explain your reasoning?


Thomas Strömquist Mickey wrote: "When a student tells me, "This play is stupid," I don't automatically assume he has somehow transcended Shakespeare and should be put in a higher level class."

I think you may have answered your own question here!

I'm sure that my feelings and opinions for a book are dependent on my current situation and mood and that a huge number of the one's I've read, I've treated "unfairly" in reviews and expressed opinions. Still, I'm only human and this is one of the things that makes a place like Goodreads great. With a large number of people you are bound to get a whole array of opinions and points of view and that I think tells much more about a book than a single reviewer (however professional and 'objective') could do.

But of course, you have to be a bit discriminating also - one 'problem' I find is that people tend to exaggerate their general opinions of a book - that is - either "Loved it" or "Hated it". With that kind of black/white or on/off levels you will have a number of people that had a hangup/gripe/part that they didn't like and will end up hating, trashing and 1-staring a book that someone else loved, praised and 5-stared. And of course, it is perfectly fine that they choose to do that and it doesn't mean that their opinions are less valid than anyone else's.

That being said, I tend to put less weight on 1- and 5-star ratings with no or very few-worded reviews , especially if the reviewer seems to pick mostly 1- and 5-star books...


message 10: by Suzanne (last edited Dec 21, 2015 01:26PM) (new) - rated it 1 star

Suzanne I am one of those people who put it down. If I dislike a book, I don't insult those that do like it because we all have different tastes. I am just getting over a serious illness that changed my life perspective. If a book doesn't thrill me, transport me or make me think, I am donating it to someone who will get those things out of it. Life is too short to read boring books.

I think AnnLoretta pretty much nailed it. The folks that do act like jerks about it just want to make themselves feel better. Classic Inferiority Complex symptoms.


Kathryn I don't like labels, what is a "better reader"? One can be a discerning reader and/or a self-proclaimed "snob" like I am. All this means is we all like different books. As a reader for over 40 years I have an extensive experience level from seeking out all types of reading material. Started with romance, horror, sci-fi, fantasy, moved into biographies, self-help, astrology, physics, etc. As you mature in your life so does your reading "taste". Doesn't mean anyone is any "better" than anyone else.


message 12: by Jeri (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jeri Mickey wrote: "I just recently managed to read this book, so I'm a little late to the party. There is a wide range of opinion about the merits of this book. Looking over the topics, it seems like there are many p..."


My disdain for the book has nothing to do with stupid mistakes--most books have those, but for bad writing in general.


Mickey Jeri wrote: "My disdain for the book has nothing to do with stupid mistakes--most books have those, but for bad writing in general. "

Really? I think her writing is wonderful. Is this difference of opinion between us a result of a clearer idea of what is good writing, and, if so, which of us is the better reader?

Ultimately, I was able to enjoy and get something out of a book you could not. Is that not the ultimate goal of a reader? I just find this assumption that a reader who cannot enjoy a book (for whatever reason) is a better reader to be an odd way of expressing superiority. Can you imagine if this held true with other hobbies? A painter is superior if he hates more paintings. A musician is better if he dislikes more songs or musical genres. It makes no sense to me. Many people on Goodreads seem eager to express a disdain for a book as if it is a mark of distinction instead of a sign of an impairment. My first thought is to blame literary critics, because I think they've heavily influenced the way readers talk about books.


Mickey I'm about 2/3 of the way through the book, Enslaved by Ducks and I started looking through the reviews on here, and the majority on the first page (the order of which is determined by the amount of "likes" a review gets) are low-rated. The top reviews are pretty vicious, characterizing the author as a negligent and careless pet owner. Several reviews mention the popular activity of being so disgusted with a book that it is thrown against the wall or across the room. This isn't an isolated incident of a controversial book but is pretty standard around here. I'm just getting increasingly disenchanted and annoyed with the negativity. It seems that instead of enjoying books as readers, people are more interested in getting attention for their negative opinions about authors and/or books.

Why would anyone read an 800 page book they don't like? What's the point? To come on here and crow about how you didn't like it? Was that really worth all the time you put into it? Why not just read a book that speaks to you and then spend time discussing that? I hate how we can never get past the elementary point of whether we liked a book or not, as if there is no other discussion to have. Then I'm stuck defending it instead of having interesting discussions about it.

/rant over


message 15: by Timo (new) - rated it 3 stars

Timo H. Mickey wrote: "Why would anyone read an 800 page book they don't like? What's the point?"

In order to form a complete opinion of the book? Each book has a variety of aspects that provide us experiences we either enjoy or don't, and the strongest of these experiences are the ones that determine whether we say we 'liked' or 'didn't like' the book. Ideally, we would then list out the pluses and minuses, but often there is no time or energy to do so, and we just give stars instead of a complete review of the book.

The weight we put on our experiences depends on the individual. I say I didn't like like Goldfinch, mainly due to the uninteresting plot which I felt didn't speak to me, while someone else may agree to it but says he/she liked the book because of the atmosphere the author was able to convey with her writing. I may agree, yet still dislike the book.

But I feel I would not be able to form a complete opinion of the book unless I read it to the end and had the full of range of the experiences it has to offer. Not a universal rule to live by of course, with some books it's just waste of life to persevere, but that's also subjective. Someone had to suffer through writing the thing, to begin with!


Mickey Timo wrote: "In order to form a complete opinion of the book?"

Do you really believe that you have had as rich an experience with the book as someone who enjoyed it? Do you think that you were able to enter into the story as much as someone who enjoyed it?

With all the books out there, including several lifetimes of books that will speak to you, that will absorb you, why continue with a book that you don't care for? So you can have an opinion on it?

Speaking for the community of book readers, how varied can the conversation be if it is focused on the excoriating/defending model? Are we talking in depth about the atmosphere or the plot? Am I being enriched by the conversations or are the conversations being held back by people who "have an opinion" but no insight into the novel beyond what they subjectively object to (and most of this is done in a very condescending way).

I'm irritated with the negativity on this site.


Joanne I read the whole thing to sharpen my editing skills.


message 18: by Timo (new) - rated it 3 stars

Timo H. Mickey wrote: "Am I being enriched by the conversations or are the conversations being held back by people who "have an opinion" but no insight into the novel beyond what they subjectively object to (and most of this is done in a very condescending way)."

I do strongly believe that conversations are much more enriching when there are contrasting views. However, that requires that all parties are ready to accept and respect the views others may have, instead of outright declaring them of "having no insight" or dismissing their right of opinion.

Now, having said that..

"Do you really believe that you have had as rich an experience with the book as someone who enjoyed it? Do you think that you were able to enter into the story as much as someone who enjoyed it?"

What does it matter? All experiences are subjective, depending on plethora of factors. There is absolutely no way of saying whose experience is the richest or deepest, and the overall opinion someone has for the book is probably the worst way to determine it. Just as someone may have disliked the novel for something as trivial as minute anachronisms, someone else may have liked it just because it happens to deal with art world. They've both read the same novel, may even have ended up feeling more or less the same throughout and after reading it, just have a different overall opinion on the number of stars they are ready to give the book when they log on to Goodreads. Can you seriously say that one of them is better positioned to discuss the novel?

I'm irritated with the negativity on this site.

In that case, I would recommend toning it down, instead of classifying people into those who are entitled to discuss a book, and to those who are not. For if something is condescending, then that's it.


Mickey Timo wrote: "I do strongly believe that conversations are much more enriching when there are contrasting views. "

I strongly disagree with this. Conversations in which there are contrasting views are often not more enriching. They are less nuanced. Getting bogged down in the objections of "haters" means that I'm not getting any insight into the novel and any conversation is necessarily going to be about subjectivity (and usually focuses on the opinions of the "hater). If a book didn't "speak to you", that's a misfortune for you, but I don't know what it has to do with the book or why it should matter to me. I found the plot interesting (although I hesitate to use the word plot because I think it's such a "book report" word). To have a conversation about whether the plot was interesting or not is not terribly insightful. An unsuccessful reading of a book is about a basic "failure to connect" with the story and the author. It's more a handicap on the part of the reader (and it's unavoidable if you read much at all-like I said, all readers including me have authors and stories they don't connect with). This failure means that while you may have read all the words in all the pages of the book, you didn't have the full experience that someone who loved the book did. As far as being able to express that opinion in an interesting manner, that's a different matter altogether, but limiting the discussion to only contrasting views or thinking that the higher the contrast, the better the discussion isn't true. Look at a lot of these threads.

What I object to is the idea that disliking a book is a sign of a better reader and having objections to a book is a smarter and more nuanced position than liking a book. This is a real problem on Goodreads, and I'm increasingly annoyed by it. It makes the discussions on here less nuanced and civil than they would be if this common misconception didn't exist.


Melissa Can disliking this book mean you are a better reader?

No, this book was great! This was 800 pages of pure joy and if you didn't like, I feel sorry for you.


Joanne Mulch it !


Mickey Joanne wrote: "Mulch it !"

Or you could give it to someone who would appreciate it.


message 23: by Love (new) - rated it 5 stars

Love This thread has gotten kind of wild. Everyone just hard offered tastes, but I think (like in the media) posts that get read and liked are often ones that attempt to destroy a book. I'm not so sure that's a great thing.


Marguerite Mooers Love wrote: "I don't really think that's true. I think that is more dependent on your personality. Life isn't perfect, neither is writing or reading. People who can't get over small discrepancies in a book, pro..."

I agree. I recently read a quote from someone that said, in effect, that the most important thing about a book was its good punctuation and spelling, and I thought, no, wait. I am willing to forgive an author for some of those mistakes because I know, as an author, how hard it is to control them. Just formatting a book from a word document to a mobi document (for Kindle) will create strange pagination issues you can't control. So, I rate good writing very high. That is not to say a book riddled with spelling errors in the era of word spellchecking, does not make me angry, but I don't nitpick authors. I agree that some people just like to make themselves feel smarter or more important by trashing others. It helps no one.


Marguerite Mooers Mickey wrote: "I just recently managed to read this book, so I'm a little late to the party. There is a wide range of opinion about the merits of this book. Looking over the topics, it seems like there are many p..."

Hi Mickey,
there were parts of this book that I loved. I loved her description of the bomb that goes off right in the first chapter. I felt that at the end of the book she had sort of lost her way plot-wise and then I was disappointed in the end. I wanted the boy and girl to get together, so the end felt a little disappointing. But, hey, she got a big award for this book, so a lot of people liked it.


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